Matt Fraction hosted, and was the sole (physical) panelist for Sunday’s “X-Men: Manifest Destiny” panel at Heroes Con in Charlotte. Fraction’s fellow Uncanny X-Men writer Ed Brubaker (sick with a cold) joined the panel via the magic of Fraction’s iPhone…which took a little while to set up, but paid dividends as the co-writers were able to field questions from the audience together
“Much like our X-Men run, this is half-assed and improvised,” Fraction joked of the set-up he “MacGyvered” together to hold his iPhone near the microphone.
After taking the time to set the phone system up, Fraction began the panel by hanging up with Brubaker and reading an e-mail from X-editor Nick Lowe on his phone which (was written in haiku form, he joked) covered some of the major elements coming in the X-Universe in the next six months.
Highlights from Lowe’s e-mail:
- The team’s relocation to San Francisco beginning with July’s issue #500 will be permanent.
- Lowe called Warren Ellis’ first two Astonishing X-Men scripts “absolutely incredible.”
- Gambit will be playing a role in X-Men: Legacy, while Mr. Sinister will be the “big bad” of the coming months. The title will also be where X-readers will be able to find Rogue.
- The mystery of why Archangel’s wings are metal will be revealed little by little in X-Force; and Mike Choi will step in as guest artist on issues #7-#10.
- In the Iceman story in the X-Men: Manifest Destiny specials, Bobby Drake will face off against a major villain, Lowe wrote – “A for-real, big deal villain.”
“It’s Galactus,” Fraction deadpanned, “Because you demanded it.”
Fraction then called Brubaker back, and after a quick comment to watch his language, because there was a seven year old boy dressed as Iron Fist in the front row, the two were off to the races, with Fraction opening the floor to questions.
Asked if they could name a character that’s definitely on the team, as the cover to issue #500 offers so many choices, Fraction responded with, “Wolverine,” and Brubaker countered with “Wolverine Eagle – he’s a new character.”
Fraction fired back that was part of their editorial plan – to add “Wolverine” in front of every character and create “Wolverine” versions of them to populate the X-Universe with – something which would lead to miniseries and specials and events. “Oh my god,” Fraction said, “We just made a million dollars right here on the phone.”
On the more serious side of the answer, Fraction said that one of the reasons he and Brubaker moved the team to San Francisco was the idea to have the whole extended mutant “family” relocate there, to have the city become a haven for mutants. That Fraction continued, will allow both he and Brubaker to use any number of their favorite characters in forthcoming stories. Giving an example, Fraction said that he is a huge fan of the Chris Claremont/Bill Sienkiewicz characters from New Mutants, and has already begun using them in stories, but other characters, such as Dazzler will be around. “Thje idea is to use the entire tapestry, not just These Five Guys,” Fraction said.
The California branch of the 50 State Initiative are dealt with a little bit in issues #499 and #500, Brubaker said, and there may be an Initiative/X-Men story when the Secret Invasion is over, but it’s not a top priority. Brubaker added that one of the reasons to move the X-men to San Francisco was that, if any city in the United States would tell The Initiative to leave it alone, it would be San Francisco.
That said, Fraction said that his character from San Francisco who was making a bid to have The Order headquartered in the city will make an appearance in issue #500.
Asked a joint question of a) will Mimic return, and b) will the writers use any of the mutants who may not be super-powered, Fraction tackled the latter, while telling Brubaker to Google up Mimic and see if he can come up with anything there.
For the latter question, Fraction said that he’s already planning on it, and will introduce an older Chinese man in issue #502 who was a mutant, but lost his powers on M-Day. Given that the X-Men’s headquarters will be more of a community center than a fortress/staging area/school as Xavier’s Mansion had become, the X-Men’s presence in the city will attract in mutants: powered, those only with abilities, and those who have lost their powers. Fraction said that he and Brubaker are anxious to look at the human scale of mutant powers.
Having been reading up, Brubaker came back on the line with a comment that things looked pretty promising for using Mimic in upcoming stories. He liked what he had found.
Archangel/Angel will mostly be appearing in X-Force for the next little while, Fraction said, given that the transformation into and plans for Archangel occur in that title.
Asked if they would be dealing with the Scarlet Witch in the series, Brubaker said that he would expect to see Allan Heinberg dealing with the Scarlet Witch in the future, noting that she is more of an Avengers character than an X-Men character these days.
Asking about female X-Men, an audience member asked if it could be possible that Emma Frost is consciously or unconsciously eliminating “the competition,” and that’s the explanation for the lousy fates that have befallen several female X-characters?
“That’s such a good idea, you just don’t know…” Fraction mused, clearly excited by the notion, explaining it to Brubaker that the fan had come up with an explanation for rampant misogyny in comics.
“Yeah – Emma’s just worried that Cyclops will go after any mutant in a skirt,” Brubaker added, laughing.
Fraction added that readers will see an Emma Frost miniseries in 2009.
Moving on, Brubaker said that there will be stories coming that touch upon Vulcan, but Brubaker couldn’t say just what yet.
There will be new villains coming into the book, as well as “remixes” of old villains and new interpretations of current villains. Fraction said that the changes and tweaks are needed because when you have a series such as X-Men that has run for so long, you reach a point where you have to honor continuity, but not live and die by it. That said, Fraction explained that there will be old favorites presented in new lights, such as the Hellfire Cult and the Sisterhood of Evil Mutants. To illustrate his point, Fraction said that at the end of issue #500, there’s a scene with a number of skinheads in Hellfire masks – “It’s things you’ve never seen before, but yet, are things that are familiar.”
In response to a question about the Hellfire Club, Fraction said that Emma Frost “has a huge couple of years ahead of her. And riffing off of that, Fraction said that he and Fraction will be putting the sex back in the X-Men. “There’s been a mutant baby, since M-Day,” Fraction said, adding, “How do you make more babies?” The writer intimated that while things won’t be blatant, sex and reproduction will be in the forefront of the X-men’s minds.
“So instead of having ‘that talk’ with my son, I can just give him an issue of X-Men?” a father asked Fraction?
“Have him read Identity Crisis, and then ask him, ‘Okay, what was wrong with that?’” Fraction answered back.
Asked how much control Cyclops will have over his powers, related to what readers saw at the end of Astonishing X-Men, Brubaker said that he loved the ending, but felt that Cyclops didn’t want ot have that control anymore, and has asked Emma to shut off that part of his brain – but can still turn “off” his powers if he wants to, “but it takes an amazing amount of willpower.”
In answering a question about the X-Men’s supposed doctrine of tolerance, yet they segregate themselves from the rest of society, Brubaker said that he and Fraction see the move to San Francisco as a way to address that, and plan to have the X-Men be somewhat “normal” people in San Francisco.
“San Francisco is where you could walk down the street with your wings out rather than hiding them, people would say, look at that guy with cool wings,” Brubaker said, adding that given the presence of the X-Men, other mutants in the country and the world will gravitate to the city, but other teams will remain in their respective locations.
Brubaker said that, to underline the difference between how mutants are seen in San Francisco compared to other cities, he wanted to have the last page of issue #499 show The San Francisco Chronicle and The Daily Bugle lying side-by-side. The headline of the Chronicle: “City Welcomes New Heroes,” while the Bugle’s headline would read: “Freak City Welcomes Freak Heroes: New York to X-Men: Drop Dead!”
In explaining one of the future themes that he and Brubaker are looking to explore, Fraction said that the mutants are in a time of change, as, for years, the book and the team were based in science, and literally were at the edge of evolution. Now, Fraction explained, Cyclops has to have faith – that whatever Cable is doing with the mutant baby will somehow work out for their species. Fraction said that will be a core tenet underlying the character of Cyclops – “what does it mean for Cyclops, when you’re the guy in charge and all you have is hope?”
Related to that, Fraction said that he and Brubaker have a constraint that wasn’t necessarily there before for earlier X-Men writers, that is, new mutants can’t just be created for a scene or storyline and thrown in to meet the story’s needs.
Brubaker agreed, adding that he and Fraction will be sticking close to the”198” mutants that supposedly survived M-Day, even though that number was originally meant to be a rough estimate, with perhaps as many as 400 mutants with powers remaining in the Marvel Universe. Somewhere in its use, Brubaker said, that “soft” number became a “hard” number, so the writers will try their best to abide by it. Brubaker thanked uncannyxmen.net for keeping tabs on which mutants have been shown to still have their powers, and which were depowered.
There are no plans to use Kitty Pryde, Brubaker said in response to a question, although, Fraction added, Colossus will really, really miss her. Likewise, there are no current plans to use The Initiative’s Mutant Zero or Cassandra Nova. And Fraction teased a Magneto appearance hard.
An appearance by Captain America got a “maybe” from Brubaker, but one character that will definitely be making an appearance: Storm. “She’s going to be kind of like Wolverine,” Fraction said. “She’ll really be racking up the Frequent Flyer miles between us and Black Panther, and she’ll be in Astonishing as well – Warren has a big crush on her. He loves her.”
Asked if Banshee will return, Brubaker said “He’s pretty dead,” to which Fraction asked if he was “Uncle Ben ‘dead’ or Bucky ‘dead?’”
Brubaker answered Fraction’s question with, “If you die in a flashback [as Bucky did] you’re not really dead, so I think he’s more like Uncle Ben dead and Gwen Stacy dead. But you never know – he’s an X-Man.”
Weapon 12 and Fantomex?
“You, me and Grant Morrison are the only guys that like him,” Fraction replied to the fan who asked the question, adding that he had a story where he wanted to bring him in, but Brubaker shot it down, citing the bizarre continuity problem of the Weapon __ program, Captain America’s involvement and the like.
Asked if readers can expect more character-driven elements, reminiscent of the Chris Claremont era, Fraction said that he and Brubaker are huge fans of the X-Men issues where the team would play softball, “or have a snowball fight against the Avengers in Central Park,” Brubaker added.
Brubaker then took point, explaining that he can easily remember the actions and interactions of the characters 20 or 30 years previous to this day, but can be hazy on the plots, that is, the larger events that put the characters into the situations.
“I always say that the X-Men is superhero romance comics with action some of the time,” Brubaker said. “That’s the kind of stuff I’m hoping we can bring into the book…”
Asked how they see the dynamic between Cyclops and Wolverine, Fraction said that he will be touching upon it on his first arc. The writer said that he sees Wolverine as being something of the bad example of the team, who has always been a little detached with a “don’t become like me,” vibe. Now, as a result of M-Day and more recently “Messiah Complex” and “Divided We Stand,” Cyclops has had to change and, ultimately become more like Wolverine. While that may be where he needs to be for the X-Men, Wolverine sees it as a shame that it had to happen to someone like Cyclops. Boiling it down to a pop culture touchstone, Fraction described their relationship as something akin to Han Solo and Luke Skywalker.
The stories that Fraction and Brubaker will write in Uncanny will be shorter in nature, the writers said, though there will be a “superflow” to the series of no fixed length. Both said that they will not be writing Uncanny X-Men “for the trade,” even though, they joked, they write all their other work that way.
Jean Grey? Still taking the dirt nap, Fraction said.
And finally, touching back upon the character-driven elements, in response to a question about “seasonal” stories, such as those which used to reflect on the holidays or events throughout the year, Brubaker said that they hope to bring those elements back, with Fraction adding that Pixie could make a psychedelic snowstorm in San Francisco for Christmas. Brubaker quickly added that Storm can make is snow anywhere, and Fraction, his face lighting up said, “That can be the X-Men’s gift to San Francisco! Here you go San Francisco, a white Christmas every year! Sweet! We just made another million dollars!”